New­som restarts gi­ant wa­ter tun­nel project

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION - By ADAM BEAM

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia’s gov­er­nor has restarted a project to build a gi­ant, un­der­ground tun­nel that would pump bil­lions of gal­lons of wa­ter from the San Joaquin Delta to the south­ern part of the state.

Gov. Gavin New­som’s ad­min­is­tra­tion on Wed­nes­day is­sued a No­tice of Prepa­ra­tion for the project, which is the first step in the state’s lengthy en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view process.

Last year, New­som halted a sim­i­lar project that would have built two tun­nels for the same pur­pose. The new project will have only one tun­nel, and it will carry less wa­ter. State of­fi­cials don’t know how much it will cost.

“This project would help safe­guard a vi­tal source of af­ford­able wa­ter for mil­lions of Cal­i­for­ni­ans,” said Karla Nemeth, di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Wa­ter Re­sources.

The tun­nel would be a ma­jor ad­di­tion to the State Wa­ter Project, the com­plex sys­tem of reser­voirs, aque­ducts and pump­ing plants that de­liver wa­ter to more than 27 mil­lion Cal­i­for­ni­ans and 3 mil­lion acres of farm­land. The wa­ter comes from rain and snow in the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tains.

State of­fi­cials say they need the tun­nel be­cause in­take for the cur­rent sys­tem is only three feet above the av­er­age sea level, mak­ing it vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change.

The San Joaquin Delta is home to nearly 750 species of plants and wildlife. It’s also crit­i­cal part of the breed­ing net­work of wild salmon. The Sierra Club Cal­i­for­nia has op­posed di­vert­ing wa­ter from the Delta be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion is con­cerned about how it would im­pact fish and wildlife.

Other groups praised the project be­cause they said it would mod­ern­ize the state’s ag­ing wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

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